Abraham: Embraced into Hope

This is the 14th blog post for the series A January of Unwrapping Hope inspired by a dear friend’s words and linked up to Coffee for Your Heart:

Like Ruth and David, Abraham was a man whose heart was embraced by Hope. And yet, like David, he struggled to always allow himself to be embraced. Like us, there were days he took matters into his own hands because His unseen Hope was too difficult for his human mind and emotions to grasp. Through his life, God shows us that the existence of Our Hope is not dependent on our deeds, but upon an everlasting covenant of Love.

The story of the Abrahamic covenant between God and His people is told in Genesis 15 and 17. We see that God enters into this covenant in response to Abraham’s faith (Genesis 15: 5 – 6):

Then he took him outside and said, “Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You’re going to have a big family, Abram!”

And he believed! Believed God! God declared him “Set-Right-with-God.”

As Abraham is “Set-Right-with God” through his decision to believe, also evidenced by him leaving his home for an unknown destination in response to God’s call, God makes an everlasting commitment to Abraham and His descendants and promises them a forever home (Genesis 15: 3 – 8, The Message):

…I’m establishing my covenant between me and you, a covenant that includes your descendants, a covenant that goes on and on and on, a covenant that commits me to be your God and the God of your descendants. And I’m giving you and your descendants this land where you’re now just camping, this whole country of Canaan, to own forever. And I’ll be their God.”

Interestingly, Abraham (then still Abram), was put to sleep by God for the covenant to come into being (Genesis 15: 12 – 21):

As the sun went down a deep sleep overcame Abram and then a sense of dread, dark and heavy.

13-16 God said to Abram, “Know this: your descendants will live as outsiders in a land not theirs; they’ll be enslaved and beaten down for 400 years. Then I’ll punish their slave masters; your offspring will march out of there loaded with plunder. But not you; you’ll have a long and full life and die a good and peaceful death. Not until the fourth generation will your descendants return here; sin is still a thriving business among the Amorites.”

17-21 When the sun was down and it was dark, a smoking firepot and a flaming torch moved between the split carcasses. That’s when God made a covenant with Abram

Normally, a covenant was sealed by two active participants, who then both carried responsibility for honoring the covenant. By putting Abraham to sleep, however, God effectively shoulders full responsibility for keeping the covenant. This means that Abraham and his descendants (who include believers today, who have been grafted into the Family of God through Christ) are absolved of ultimate responsibility. Their actions can never nullify God’s outstretched Hope: His commitment to them and the eternal Home He promises them. Once we turn our hearts to God in belief, He committs Himself to us, embracing us and gifting us eternal hope.

We see this in Abraham’s journey of faith. While Abraham at first believed God at His Word that he would make him a father of many nations (Genesis 15: 5 – 6, The Message):

Then he took him outside and said, “Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You’re going to have a big family, Abram!”

And he believed! Believed God! God declared him “Set-Right-with-God.”

About ten years after the covenant was made, Abraham chooses not to wait any longer for God’s timing, but instead listens to his wife and takes matters into his own hands. In Genesis 16 we read of how Serai persuades him to conceive a child, Ishmael, with Hagar, her slave. By trying to bear fruit apart from the Vine, Abraham dishonors the covenant, leading God to place enmity between the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac.

And yet, because God has committed himself to honoring the covenant and shouldering responsibility for it, He gives Sarah and Abraham a child of their own some fourteen years later, just as He promised, fulfilling part of the covenant. This fulfilment also testifies to Abraham being “Set-Right-with-God”, righteousness being gifted in His decision to believe and place his trust in a God who would bring redemption to the world to make Abraham a “father of nations” and an heir of heaven:

Hebrews 9: 15 (NIV)

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

From Isaac’s line would come the Messiah: Jesus Christ and through Jesus, Abraham would become “the father of many nations”, Jesus’ death and resurrection enabling the grafting in of foreigners into God’s Family (Genesis 17: 3, The Message):

Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: You’ll be the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham, meaning that ‘I’m making you the father of many nations.’ I’ll make you a father of fathers—I’ll make nations from you, kings will issue from you.

 

Romans 11: 11 – 12, 17 – 18 (NIV)

…because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!..

If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.

Abraham thus entered into Hope in accepting the gift of faith God opened his heart to. He chose to accept and trust with open and empty palms, standing in a foreign land, as an elderly man nearing his hundredth year. However, it is God, who moved Abraham, and thus us also, forward into this Hope as He embraced Abraham in his sin. He grew hope through His outstretched arms of grace. And as we too choose to accept His warm embrace of Love and embrace Him in return, just as Abraham did, God is more than able to lead us forward into greater and greater assurance of things unseen.

Romans 8: 16 – 21

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

Hope is not contingent upon our goodness, but upon the eternal righteousness of the One we choose to embrace, who makes us, like Abraham “Set-Right-with-God”. But the more we let go and embrace Christ’s will for us, the more we are able to make “Israel envious”. As we bury our pride and let Him earth us in Himself, the Living Word, in and through the breaking, we will reap a harvest of righteousness when the time is ripe. For we “do not support the root, but the root supports” us, His children and heirs of Hope.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Abraham: Embraced into Hope

  1. Hi Anna,
    I’m visiting today from Coffee for your Heart. I really love that story in the Bible that you’re posting about today! And it’s the second time in a week my attention has been drawn to it (I love it when God does that!) — so powerful and what a great reminder of God’s promise to Abraham – -and to us!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He’s good at getting our attention like that! It was my friend who pointed out this little detail of God putting Abraham to sleep…such amazing grace from the very start!

      Thanks for visiting and encouraging by commenting.

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